Earlier today, it came to light that FUNimation filed suit against 1,337 Bittorrent users that were downloading One Piece’s 481st episode. Reactions and speculation are already out, and range from “FUNimation is right,” to “FUNimation should rot in hell for what they’re doing.” Personally, I’m quite interested in seeing where this goes.

I have to admit that while the “1337” number is amusing, I suspect this suit will have both a chilling and polarizing effect on the fanbase as a whole. Everybody has different opinions, and different stances on the fansub debate. I’m not here to condemn them, nor am I here to defend them. However, I expect a lot of witch-hunting, and a lot of pointed fingers across forums and social networks in the near future.

Frankly, I find the whole timing of this situation more intriguing – the same day that Fractale streams returned, and that users were mocking the company for “not doing a good job” of dealing with the problem in the corporate blog comments. Accusations of talking big and being “useless” spread far and wide. This move seems like the perfect way to show that FUNimation, as a company, isn’t screwing around.

Personally, I see this as FUNimation sending a bit of a message. For a good many years, at least since 2003 or 2004, links to torrent sites have been fairly common in anime fandom. The mantra of “lol buying anime” has become a mantra of certain places I won’t mention, and the idea that people outright deserve to watch shows that they don’t have access to (without paying), be it for monetary reasons or license reasons, has grown to unprecedented levels. Companies have pussyfooted around the issue, which did little to help the situation of falling revenues, and rising downloads. With three companies dead, and a total 2009 industry profit of $200 million (this is less than The Dark Knight’s theatrical run) , it was time for somebody had to put their foot down. I’m just glad I wasn’t the person that had to make that decision.

FUNimation did what was needed to protect their investment but I foresee a long, drawn-out hate-fest from people. After all – fansubs have grown to be accepted as an institution. Even in this era of simulcasts, fansub distributors and pirates tend to trend higher than the legal sources, and legitimate distribution outlets. Still, the notion that the company is “suing their customers” will go over like a fart in church. I foresee it becoming a driving point – something to justify further piracy as the sentiment that “the man” is being fought in some epic battle. I also foresee a ton of people screaming like children as nothing constructive really gets done, and an issue that could end quickly with quiet discussion and a low-key approach is prolonged far longer than it should be.

The next few months will be intriguing, for sure. There’s going to be rage, tears, and a lot of martyr stories going forward. At the same time, I hope people use this as a time for reflection and looking into the big picture.